Topographic Surveys are used to identify and map the contours of the ground and existing features on the surface of the earth or slightly above or below the earth's surface (i.e. trees, buildings, streets, walkways, manholes, utility poles, retaining walls, etc.). If the purpose of the survey is to serve as a base map for the design of a residence or building of some type, or design a road or driveway, it may be necessary to show perimeter boundary lines and the lines of easements on or crossing the property being surveyed, in order for a designer to accurately show zoning and other agency required setbacks.
Topographic maps are used by a variety of professions from engineers, architects, foresters, geologists, etc. The most common use of topographic maps is in the planning stages of projects to help design the layout and location of buildings, roads, dams, pipelines, landscapes, fire control routes, trails, etc.
A total station or TST (total station theodolite) is an electronic/optical instrument used in modern surveying and building construction. The total station is an electronic theodolite (transit) integrated with an electronic distance meter (EDM) to read slope distances from the instrument to a particular point